Tori Sturges
Staff Writer

Whittier has always encouraged study abroad as the school website states that their mission is “to prepare students for a global society and evolving workplace.” This January, Poets finally have the opportunity to study abroad again, despite the ongoing pandemic. However, there is a catch. For this upcoming JanTerm, the only course being offered is a Spanish Language and Culture class with Professor Doreen O’Connor-Gomez. Although an amazing opportunity, this limits many that are interested in studying abroad because there is a prerequisite; students must have taken one semester of college-level Spanish, have AP Spanish credits, or already speak Spanish (for more information, see Study Abroad’s Tentative Plans for 2021). I am fortunate to have taken a Spanish course in my first semester here at Whittier.

When I was a freshman, I was really looking forward to studying abroad, especially because of the Global Poet Scholarship, which awards everyone $2,000, and intends to “increase student access to study abroad programs and enhance students’ global education.” Once the ending of the pandemic was nowhere in sight, I was very concerned that I would not have the opportunity to study abroad, which was on my bucket list for my college experience. I did not want to pass up this opportunity because I have never been able to travel overseas, and I have always wanted to go to Europe. With the scholarship, I was certain that this would be the most affordable way to finally travel to Europe. I am looking forward to traveling to Spain because I am really excited to travel to a foreign country where I can speak the language. I’m hoping it will improve my Spanish-speaking skills and encourage me to become more fluent.

By looking at the schedule of classes for JanTerm 2020, there were four study abroad courses offered which were titled Environment, Culture, and Politics in Thailand; Ohana in the USA: Native Hawaii; Sevilla Maravillosa: Whittier in Spain; and Paris: People, Place, and Revolution.  This year, the only available trip is to Spain. If you missed your opportunity to apply or didn’t make the requirements, they do plan on offering other study abroad opportunities in MayTerm. It is great that they will be offering more opportunities to travel; however, for fourth-years, this means that they will not be finished with school until June. I don’t blame any seniors who don’t want to delay their school year to study abroad, especially because of the uncertainty of it.

Initially, there were intended to be more courses offered. In an email from the Office of International Programs that was sent in May of this year, a course was advertised to “explore Hindu Temples, the rich culinary traditions of the multicultural island, Carnaval celebrations, and engaging musical performances” in Trinidad and Tobago. There were two study abroad courses that were supposed to take place in Cuba, which intended on offering opportunities such as watching a “jazz show, walking tour of Old Havana, a day trip to Matanzas, a baseball game, the Ernest Hemingway House, Museum of the Revolution, and much more.” These courses were titled “Religion and Baseball” and “Voices from Cuba.” To my knowledge, there is no explanation as to why these courses are not available any longer. It is disappointing to see that there is no explanation for these courses being cancelled. Fourth-year Danielle Green commented on the limited travel options by stating, “I am looking forward to traveling to Spain; however, as a fourth-year, I wish I had more options, and I wish there was more of a clear explanation why some of the trip options disappeared.”

As a fourth-year, I definitely believe that upperclassmen should be prioritized for these courses. However, it is very devastating to see that there is only one course being offered when, in previous years, there have been several options to choose from. By comparing the numbers of students enrolled in a study abroad course, there are 54 students enrolled this year for Spain. In January of 2020, 21 students were enrolled in the Paris course, 21 students were enrolled in Hawaii, 19 students were enrolled in Spain, and 11 students were enrolled in Thailand. That makes the total number of students for 2020 to be 72. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that they made the upcoming course twice the size it has been in the past, it just would be nice for there to be an array of options. This is especially because the only class that is being offered has a language requirement, which is not fair to those who may be learning other languages.

By the time I saw flyers circulating, it was too late to add a class so those students that were interested in even having the chance to study abroad were out of luck if they weren’t already fluent in Spanish, didn’t have AP credits, or never took a course in Spanish. In such a unique situation, it would have been best to choose a destination that did not need a language requirement, which would give more students the opportunity to travel.

I wish the flyer was distributed out earlier because I had to scramble to get my passport. I was not expecting to get accepted into the course, as it all just happened so fast. I had to pay a lot of extra fees in order to get my passport here on time. I have personally never traveled outside of the U.S., and, with the unpredictability of the pandemic, I was not anticipating getting the chance to go on this trip, so I did not have a passport ready to go. Also, I did not understand how long passports take to be shipped out, so I had no choice but to pay the ridiculous passport fees.

With all that being said, I am wholeheartedly grateful that I’m taking advantage of this amazing opportunity. I just wish that more students were as fortunate as me. Study abroad is something that Whittier is always encouraging students to take part in, so why must the options be so limited if many people are now beginning to travel? I think this is an experience that everyone deserves to have because the scholarship may be the only opportunity that makes traveling affordable for students.

Featured Image: Sage Amdahl / Quaker Campus

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In collaboration by Quaker Campus staff members.
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